Sunday, January 12, 2014

November/December 2013 Movie Guide

Here are some of the movies you should catch up on from the past couple months!

Released November 8, 2013
Directed by: Richard Curtis
69% on Rotten Tomatoes

On the surface this may just look like another rom com with Rachel McAdams - as if we don't have enough of those already - but About Time is really a very sweet look at how we lead our lives and what we can do to make those most of them. At the center is the funny, if occasionally awkward Gleeson whose heart infuses the story with a warmth that is often missing from the typically contrived stories that we have come to expect of romantic comedies. Instead, this takes a leap of faith and reaches a little further. I thoroughly enjoyed my time watching this movie.

Released November 8, 2013
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Eccleston, Jaimie Alexander, Zachary Levi, Ray Stevenson, Tabanobu Asano, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgård, Alice Krige
65% on Rotten Tomatoes

If you haven't noticed yet, I'm a sucker for Marvel and for London. Add Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, a Doctor, Chuck, and a Broke Girl, and I'm totally sold. The first Thor is entertaining, but not my favorite of the Avengers movies (when will they make one about Black Widow and Hawkeye?), but I'm still looking forward to seeing Thor: The Dark World. Hopefully there will be some increased momentum to propel it forward.

Released November 8, 2013
Directed by: Mike Newell
Starring: Jeremy Irvine, Holliday Grainger, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Sally Hawkins, Jason Flemyng, Robbie Coltrane, Jessie Cave, Olly Alexander, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Toby Irvine, William Ellis
66% on Rotten Tomatoes

This is my mom's favorite book by her favorite author, so while I was in London and saw it on Netflix, I took a gander and decided to start. I was hooked almost immediately. I never made it through the whole book so I was in for some surprises and was able to look upon the movie with totally fresh eyes. The telling of Pip's story was handled well, with beautiful and raw scenery and emotions. Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes are rock stars, so adept at their craft, that it's worth it just to see them giving a master class in owning a movie.

Released November 15, 2013
Directed by: Alexander Payne
Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach, Mary Louise Wilson, Rance Howard
92% on Rotten Tomatoes

Alexander Payne is a masterful storyteller. His movies are known for their quiet, carefully paced, yet incredibly compelling quality. The Descendants is one of my favorite movies and no matter how many times I watch it, I always find something new or something that affects me. That is the power of Payne's work. It is incredibly layered and never fails to impact the viewer. His movies are often genuinely funny, but also profoundly honest. This story of a father and son will no doubt be full of those same qualities that make Payne's work so wonderful.

Released November 22, 2013
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Jena Malone, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Willow Shields, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Plummer, Sam Claflin, Lynn Cohen, Toby Jones
89% on Rotten Tomatoes

The girl on fire is back! The Hunger Games trilogy (4 movies is unnecessary, but that's what we've got - either way, still a trilogy to me) plugs on with some improvements and very calculated changes. It is fraught with tension from the beginning, with Katniss being pulled in every direction. Jena Malone is the MVP. From the second she lights up the screen with pure anger she totally steals the show. J. Lawr is still doing her thing brilliantly, but such a vibrant character almost deserves her own show. Either way, the movie was good and I'm looking forward to the next two.

Released November 22, 2013 (wide release)
Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, Steve Zahn, Denis O'Hare, Kevin Rankin, Dallas Roberts, Griffin Dunne, Jane McNeill, Michael O'Neill
92% on Rotten Tomatoes

Here is something you might not realize (it took me a little while to get here too): Matthew McConaughey is a damn good actor, and an underrated one at that. He's finally getting out of the land of bad romantic comedies and getting into the land of flawed, multi-faceted characters. With that realization, now give him the chance to be electric and powerful. So that's the first reason to see this movie. The next is, of course, Jared Leto's performance, which is being hailed as one of the best of the year.

Released November 27, 2013
Directed by: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Starring: Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk, Ciarán Hinds, Chris Williams, Stephen J. Anderson, Maia Wilson, Edie McClurg, Robert Pine, Maurice LaMarche
89% on Rotten Tomatoes

This is a refreshing take on the classic fairy tale genre, full of heroins with initiative, independence, and intelligence. It asks that the audience actually contemplate some moral issues and it doesn't force the young women at the center to conform to the ideals of fairy tales before them (ever thought about how most are damsels in distress who need a man to help them and usually fall in love with the first man who looks at them?). It takes all of the expectations associated with fairy tales and gently mocks them before turning them on their heads. Plus it is genuinely funny and beautifully done!

Released December 6, 2013
Directed by: Scott Cooper
Starring: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Woody Harrelson, Sam Shepard, Tom Bower, Willem Dafoe, Bobby Wolfe, Forest Whitaker
53% on Rotten Tomatoes

I have heard mixed reviews about this slow-churning story of redemption. Christian Bale is the vigilante at the center in a role quite different to his Dark Knight, searching for justice for his brother's disappearance. If you haven't noticed, Casey Affleck is a stellar actor and his performances in the likes of Gone Baby Gone, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford have made me such a fan that I'm willing to see any movie that he's had a hand in.

Released December 13, 2013
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O'Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mikael Persbrandt, Sylvester McCoy, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Ryan Gage
74% on Rotten Tomatoes

With a slightly darker, more twisted tone, bountiful character development, and more even pacing and storytelling than its predecessor, this second installment of the Hobbit is without doubt an improvement upon the first (which, truth be told, I also enjoyed immensely). Some people are grumbling about the changes made to the story, but Jackson makes smart improvements that even out the themes and allow for deeper connections with the story and the cast. He also takes away from elements that are slightly unnecessary (Tolkien spent a little too much time with the spiders) and his additions do make sense within the world and to make these films more palatable for a viewing audience.

Released December 18, 2013 (limited)
Directed by: Spike Jonze
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt, Matt Letscher, Olivia Wilde, Laura Kai Chen, Portia Doubleday, Robert Benard, Brian Cox
90% on Rotten Tomatoes

A man falls in love with an advanced operating system with the voice of Scarlett Johansson. It's a tricky concept to wrap your head around, but if you're willing to go along with it I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. In an age where we are constantly online and have increasingly obsessive personalities, it is not a huge leap to think that someone might be infatuated with a computer.

Released December 18, 2013
Directed by: Adam McKay
Starring: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Dylan Baker, Meagan Good, Judah Nelson, James Marsden, Greg Kinnear, Josh Lawson, Kristen Wiig, Fred Willard, Chris Parnell, Harrison Ford
74% on Rotten Tomatoes

This second Anchorman installment heads right into full ridiculousness, as it should. It's laugh out loud funny and it's so great to see so many funny people throwing everything they have at the screen. Kristen Wiig is a very funny addition, but I could do without the bit featuring Ron Burgundy's son. The cameos are fantastic and each entrance of a familiar face gets many laughs. If the first movie's broad comedy is your thing, this second one is the thing for you.

Released December 20, 2013
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Starring: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Annie Rose Buckley,  Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson, Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, B.J. Novak, Jason Schwartzman, Lily Bigham, Kathy Baker, Melanie Paxson, Andy McPhee, Rachel Griffiths, Ronan Vibert
81% on Rotten Tomatoes

First of all, I should state that Emma Thompson is one of my favorite people. If I could choose an actress to be related to (how cool would she be as an aunt?), it would definitely be her. Not only is she outrageously smart, she's got clout, so I'm very willing to trust her portrayal of fellow Englishwoman P.L. Travers, author of Mary Poppins. This movie goes through Disney's struggle to obtain rights to th story to make a movie. Add in Tom Hanks and a killer supportive cast (Rushmore and Ryan!) and I don't know about you, but I am sold.

Released December 20, 2013
Directed by: David O. Russell
Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Louis C.K., Jack Huston, Michael Peña, Shea Whigham, Alessandro Nivola, Elisabeth Röhm, Paul Herman, Saïd Taghmaoui, Matthew Russell, Thomas Matthews
93% on Rotten Tomatoes

Revel in the 70s disco tackiness and glitter in this small-town con story inspired by ABSCAM. All of the actors are throwing their all into this movie completely unrestrainedly and it is really fun to watch. Adams essentially takes the reins, infiltrating and manipulating every corner. Bale is a con man who just wants to save his skin and keep out of the big game. Cooper is so utterly consumed with going too far and it's amazing watching him just slip over the edge. Renner is the one good guy. Lawrence is a master manipulator digging her claws wherever it suits her. It's just a good time watching that cast kill it.

Released December 20, 2013
Directed by: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake, Garrett Hedlund, Adam Driver, Ethan Phillips, Robin Bartlett, Max Casella, Jerry Grayson, Jeanine Serralles, Stark Sands, Alex Karpovsky, Helen Hong, Bradley Mott
93% on Rotten Tomatoes

1960s Greenwich Village folk music scene makes for an intriguing pitch alone. Add in the Coen brothers and that cast and it's kind of a done deal. I have yet to see this, but I am so excited, and that's saying something seeing as I have been waiting for this movie for a couple years. As someone who obviously was not around during that era which was so influential to music, even today, the chance to get a taste of it, even if it is in a dramatized movie, is one that I can't wait to take. Plus, if you haven't checked out the soundtrack yet, it really is great.

Released December 25, 2013 (limited)
Directed by: Peter Berg
StarringMark WahlbergTaylor KitschEmile HirschBen FosterYousuf AzamiAli SulimanEric BanaAlexander LudwigRich TingDan BilzerianJerry Ferrara
65% on Rotten Tomatoes

I don't see too many war-related movies, and often they're very hard to watch because of the utter realism that we have to face. The Hurt Locker is a movie that I thought was incredible, but only saw once and can't bring myself to watch again. Lone Survivor looks to be different tonally, and maybe not quite as good as The Hurt Locker, but very interesting all the same. The cast is great, and listening to them talk about this situation has been pretty insightful, so I'm looking forward to see how they put this story on the screen.

Released December 25, 2013
Directed by: Ben Stiller
Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Jon Daly, Kathryn Hahn, Terence Bernie Hines, Adam Scott, Paul Fitzgerald, Adrian Martinez, Shirley MacLaine, Marcus Antturi, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Kai Lennox, Sean Penn, Patton Oswalt
48% on Rotten Tomatoes

This story had a particularly labored path to the big screen, but I for one (and I stress that this is purely my opinion because it wasn't incredibly well received) thing it turned out pretty beautifully. Ben Stiller without shtick is actually worth it and this film is that. Not only is it inarguably stunning and perfectly shot, it has a subtle sense of humor that catches you unaware. It had been said that this film rambles, meanders, and wanders, which I totally agree with, but I think this is a virtue not a fault. Considering this movie is about coming out of yourself and living your life, some meandering for the sake of wanderlust is to be expected, and boy does it make me want to wander.

Released December 27, 2013 (limited)
Directed by: John Wells
Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch
67% on Rotten Tomatoes

This poster is enough to make me gleeful to see this movie. Something interesting has got to arise from Julia punching Meryl. There's no way that could be boring. If you've been living under a rock, August: Osage County is a Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tracy Letts. He adapted his brilliant script himself so, while it hasn't been hailed as being quite as good as its play version, it clearly won't be bad.

All movie posters belong to their owners and are not my work.

What were your favorite movies this year? Rooting for any come Oscar day? Comment below!

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